Less Is More…
Of all Ingolstadt’s ‘sensible’ products, the RS6 packs one of the mightiest punches straight from the showroom floor. But that’s still not enough for some people. I was lucky enough to try the latest conversion package from Litchfield – which proves that when it comes to tuning one of the world’s greatest executive expresses, sometimes it pays to keep things simple…
For many Audi enthusiasts, the RS6 represents the pinnacle of four-ringed ownership. As a perfect example of ‘the only car you’ll ever need’, it really does tick all of the boxes. An accomplished family transport, an engaging commuter, impressive load-lugger and of course, an unparalleled Autobahn eater. Once peeled and boiled, do you really need anything else?
It’s these very qualities, as such a master of all trades, that means the RS6 is also the first choice for many supercar owners, as their ‘sensible’ everyday car – and for this very reason, Gloucestershire based tuner Litchfield is seeing many of its well-heeled clientele opting for the big Audi as their mode of transport for those days when the Lamborghini, Bugatti – or 1200bhp Nissan GT-R just isn’t the ticket. Owner Iain Litchfield picks up the story. “We have many clients – particularly in London and the Home Counties – that have chosen the RS Audis as their daily drivers. As you might imagine, the first thing they do, often during the first week of ownership, is to bring them here. The RS6 is clearly a great car out of the box, but it’s amazing what can be achieved with only a few small changes. The car you see here runs the package that a great many of our customers go for, and it’s a perfect way of enhancing what’s there, without losing the look and cosseting GT character of the original car.”
The ethos here then is to take what’s there and to subtly refine it. No lairy wheels and tyres. No outrageous spoilers or add-ons… and no speed-bump scraping race-ready suspension that really wouldn’t work in the mean streets of London. The latest RS6 packs a hefty enough punch for most mere mortals – some 553bhp / 516lbft to be precise – but, when your other car emanates from Stuttgart or Maranello, you can understand why many Litchfield clients feel they need just a little more. Litchfield’s response to this is simple; an intelligent software upgrade, done in-house and combined with the fitment of a full Milltek ValveSonic exhaust system, complete with HJS sports catalysts. The result of this tuning is an altogether more supercar-similar 680bhp, with 600lbft of torque to back it all up. And, thanks to the Milltek exhaust system, the soundtrack feels much more like it could be from Sant’Agata Bolognese rather than Ingolstadt, too. Very much a home from home then…
It’s a clever bit of kit this Milltek system – It basically allows you to have two exhausts in one, with a clever control box, integrated wiring and intelligent algorithms all conspiring to make the car bark and bellow when you want it to… and then purr like a pussycat when you don’t. Again, ideal for a car that needs to be all things at once.
And that just leaves the suspension. What do Litchfield techs do here? “It’s an amazing the difference an alignment session can make on these cars,” continues Iain, “Like all mass-produced cars, there are fairly huge tolerances allowed in terms of caster, camber and toe, and just a couple of hours work can pay huge dividends in terms of handling precision and steering feel. Due to the engine positioning on most Audis, they have a reputation for push-on understeer at the limit, but by careful adjustment and set-up, even a big heavy car like the RS6 can be made much more neutral in its demeanour.”
Put like that, the Litchfield package begins to make a lot of sense. It’s not a dramatic departure from the factory offering, but then, does it need to be, really? We’re not talking about a car that was miles away from perfect in the first instance, are we? These three subtle mods may not sound like much, but together, make a succinct difference to life behind the wheel – something I was able to ascertain for myself with a gentle drive around the superb country back lanes that surround Litchfield’s impressive premises.
As it wasn’t mine, naturally, I wasn’t driving anywhere near the edge of what this car can do, but even keeping well within the limits of both legality and sanity, it was immediately evident that the additional power increase created by both the software upgrade and Milltek exhaust were both well worth the time and money spent. With almost over 130 extra galloping horses at your disposal, Litchfield’s take on the RS-6 is incredibly punchy – at any speed, at any revs, and in any gear. It’s fast alright, and when I say fast, I mean the kind of fast that you feel in your internal organs as well as through the seat of your pants. I can well imagine that London’s supercar set feel right at home in this handsome estate… it will probably be able to show a clean set of treads to almost anything else they have at home.
The insane power is a given, but it is seamlessly delivered, ensuring that there are no jerky throttle responses or nasty moments for the traction control to have to gather up. This is a great example of the mapper’s craft. The exhaust really is clever – I loved the fact that in Comfort mode the Milltek system is only slightly louder than the standard system but when you switch into Dynamic mode and the valve opens, it is truly wonderful moment. All of a sudden, you have an angry NASCAR chasing you down the road, and then, when you lift off the throttle the racecar-esque pops and crackles from the exhaust will make any enthusiast smile.
That said, the stand-out mod on this car for me, particularly given its laughably small cost, is the difference made by the alignment session. The steering on this test car was much more intuitive with crisper and more direct feedback over the standard car. It felt sharper and more precise than the two other RS6s I have driven, and when combined with the power and sublime soundtrack, made the car feel smaller and easier to place on the road. This is a mighty behemoth, no doubt, but with these choice modifications, it really doesn’t feel like it at all. This mod can be applied to any Audi of any age of course, so even if your budget and transportation tastes are a little more ‘real-world’, this is still an excellent way to make a good car even greater.
I like this car a lot. It’s subtle, it’s effective and it’s incredibly usable. To even to most ardent Audi aficionados, it’s just another RS6… But, for the lucky owner, and anyone fortunate to get an earful as it wafts past, it’s clear that it’s something a little more special than that. Whether you’re in the enviable position of having one of these in your supercar line-up, or even if it’s your sole means of transport, I would say that whenever you’re planning your next road trip, you might want to head out to Gloucestershire. One thing’s for sure; the journey home should take a little less time than the outbound voyage!
Pictures Chris Wallbank